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Elbows On The Table & Other Bad Habits - A Poll...

My uncultured undies are showing. As long as there's adequate room, I put my elbows on the table when dining.

Do you put your elbows on the table or commit some other dining etiquette faux pas fully aware that it's considered bad manners by others to do so?

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  1. I pick up the fish head and suck out every nook and cranny, sans bib, and with my hands.

    I slurp my noodles -- in the most obnoxious way possible (yes, I know this is a cultural thing).

    I stab tofu with one chopstick ... ok, kidding on this one.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      I do the fish thing at home, too. I don't really order whole fish when dining out, so I have yet to find out if that situation would compel me to do the same in public. :)

      1. re: ipsedixit

        I ordered the whole fish at one of cat cora's restaurants last year, and was seriously miffed when they took away the head before I could get at it. I was like, "B-b-b-but...." unfortunately I was too late and the waitress was already gone.

        1. re: velochic

          If you're asking about how you should answer the question, I guess both. But I'm specially interested in what you do in public.

          If you're asking about the manner in which I commit my etiquette offenses, the answer is definitely both. :)

        2. In public, sometimes talk with full mouth. In private, same, plus sometimes finish way before my husband and then sit there and look noticeably bored. I don't mean to.

          1 Reply
          1. re: middleagedfoodie

            Ha, my Dad is a speed eater, too. It is common for him to be finished his supper in the time it takes my Mom to bring everyone's plate to the table. Well, this USED to be common when we all lived at home and my mom cooked for us. These days my Dad has started to cook a bit.

            I am also very guilty of elbows on the table. Public and private.

          2. Though not specific to your question, you might find this thread interesting if you haven't read it yet.

            1 Reply
            1. Great topic! I am guilty of several Miss Manners no-no's:

              1. elbows on tables, though usually not at nicer restos or at more formal dinner parties.
              2.talking with food in my mouth, though I am careful to not gross anyone else. Again never at a nice resto or formal dinner.
              3.slurping with a straw...even loudly. Only when trying to get the whipped cream out of a milkshake or frappucino as that is the best part of the drink!
              4. Getting up to start on dishes and kitchen cleanup while my family is still eating.

              5 Replies
              1. re: jlhinwa

                I'm also guilty of #4. The cleanup can get so daunting and exhausting if you don't stay ahead of it.

                1. re: inaplasticcup

                  I am also guilty of #4, but I don't think "guilty" is quite the right word as we have just done work everyone else doesn't have to do. I eat faster because I cook and clean it up.

                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                    I agree, but I feel a bit like a hypocrite because I am the first one to bust my husband or brother if they leave the table quickly after inhaling their food or if they text or look at e-mail at the table.

                    1. re: jlhinwa

                      I think IndyGirl has a good point. They didn't cook, and, if I'm reading your situation correctly, they're not gonna have to clean, either. ;)

                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                        Exactly. They don't clean and if they make a lame attempt to take their own plate to the sink, they don't rinse or load the d/w to my standards, especially my brother. If they give me grief, I just tell them that the kitchen doesn't clean itself. That typically shuts them up.

                2. I eat with my hands a lot. Green beans, salad, asparagus (although I know that one is probably less of a faux pas). I'm convinced that salad tastes better when eaten with your hands.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: gilintx

                    I love eating with my hands, too. But, I only do it in the house. Leftovers, for some reason taste, so much better when eaten w/ fingers.

                    1. re: chowser

                      This is especially true with peanut butter.

                    2. re: gilintx

                      I feel the same way about eating salad with my hands. Lots of other foods also. I try really hard to only do it at home, but sometimes when one gets in a habit, it can be tough to break...

                      1. re: gilintx

                        I also like to eat salad with my fingers.

                        Last night, we had ribs at home, coleslaw and mashed potatoes on the side, and I couldn't be bothered to pick up my fork with the fingers that weren't covered with sauce, so I ate everything with my fingers, and that was kinda fun.

                        1. re: gilintx

                          Picking pieces out of the cut up fruit bowl, instead of scooping some onto my plate. It drove me nuts when the kiddo used to dio it. Then again I knew her hands were not clean.

                          1. i will sometimes put my elbows on during good conversation after a meal and had forgotten it was bad manners until you just reminded me :)

                            35 Replies
                            1. re: crowmuncher

                              emily post says its ok to have elbows on the table when you aren't eating


                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                If I rest my forearms on the table too long, it leaves deep lines so that's good to hear.

                                I do #6 if I've had something hot to eat and my mouth is burning. I had to laugh at #2:

                                "2. Avoid slurping, smacking, and blowing your nose."

                                I've never had the need to slurp and smack my nose while dining.;-)

                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                  So can someone tell me the reason why, assuming there's ample room and your elbows don't encroach on someone else's dining space, it is considered to be rude?

                                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                                    "So can someone tell me the reason why, assuming there's ample room and your elbows don't encroach on someone else's dining space, it is considered to be rude?"
                                    Hi there... I have no problem with anyone's elbows/forearms resting on the table, especially if I know them well enough to be breaking bread with them. However, to look at the other side of the coin: just what is the net benefit from doing so? Is this activity actually restful/comfortable? "Whoa, a little help, here! My upper body is listing forward! How will my torso ever support the weight of my head and shoulders?!?". Kidding aside, what happens if/when one doesn't rest on one's elbows? I've never packed it up early and called it a night, because I was exhausted holding up my upper body. (I kinda feel the same way about standing & leaning forward on a counter or lamp post or cyclone fence. How comfortable can leaning be -- or more to the point -- how uncomfortable can _not leaning_ be? Then again, some people practice planking for enjoyment, so what do I know? I suppose one might posit that on a romantic date, leaning provocatively forward on one's elbows/forearms is a subtle part of the mating ritual, in order to display an enamoured fascination with one's dining companion. Like that Lady and the Tramp cartoon, listing ever nearer until one can reel-in one's lover for a passionate smootch via a spaghetti strand... I'll take comfort, where it is available, as much as the next fellow. Just not much convinced that elbows on generally hard surfaces is all that comfortable. Now, if dinner was being served on a bed....? Hmm...

                                    1. re: silence9

                                      I have come to the conclusion that it's genetic. I noticed at a recent gathering of extended family at a restaurant that the entire family (with the exception of most of those who married into our clan) has that habit. We don't do it while we eat, but the entire course of non-eating time. Maybe it's the family cue that we are indeed listening to our dining companions? Who knows? But it is comfortable.

                                      1. re: gaffk

                                        Chewing with your mouth open must be genetic, too. My husband's whole family does it. Loudly.

                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                          I'm glad I got the elbows-on-the-table gene then ;)

                                          1. re: gaffk

                                            Be grateful for that. I love 'em all, but it's not pleasant to eat with them due to the loud chewing, even if it wasn't a gross out point for me.. MIL doesn't, don't know why she didn't instill that in her brood of five. Actually, now that I think about it, her husband was the worst. He would pause to suck air through his front teeth every thirty seconds or so. Holy crap.

                                      2. re: silence9

                                        LOL. You've made me think a little longer and harder than I normally would about whether or not my elbows are actually completely on the table while I'm chewing food, and now that I think about it, the convergence of those two activities is probably very rare, though my elbows are often on the table between bites of food when I'm engaged in conversation. But my forearms close to my elbows are very often rested on the table during various stages of a meal. And to me, leaning in either instance is quite comfortable! :)

                                      3. re: inaplasticcup

                                        I don't know the reasoning behind Emily Post, et al, just my own observations:

                                        Dine with my in- laws, it's an eye opening experience. They all have elbows on the table, even the younger generation, and it's rather off putting, like they're guarding their plates from one another.

                                        1. re: odkaty

                                          Do you mean that elbows on the table/over the plate hunch?

                                          Do they also do the overhand grip with their utensils? When people do the overhand grip, it always looks to me like they're going to hurt you if you come near their food.

                                          1. re: inaplasticcup

                                            Fortunately they don't do the hunch thing — it's just arms up on the table. I don't mean the forearm touching the edge of the table, but entire lower arm, plus elbow laid out across the table.

                                            My husband has been semi-broken of the habit — he now uses the knife in one hand, fork in the other, which pretty much prevents the arm/elbow thing. Too many business dinners :-)

                                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                                              It's the overhand grip for me due to physical limitations. I hope you'll forgive me when we dine together.

                                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                                  Super duper forgivable. I sometimes wonder about the looks we get when eating out for about the same reason - disability comes to everyone if they live long enough.

                                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                                    For me it's the short-ass utensils in the cafeteria @ work. If you try to hold them properly your fork may fall out of your hand. It's ridiculous. That's why I eat my Wednesday morning chicken fried steak alone in a booth- no witnesses.

                                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                From my perspective, it's because when you put your elbows on the table, your forearms either (A) go up in front of your face, thus obstructing your face from view and hindering conversation, or (B) your forearms extend out into the common table space, kind of like you're guarding your food or claiming the space as yours. I spend a lot of my day looking at people's mouths while they speak (as part of my job) and it's very difficult to hear and understand someone when the elbows rest on the table, forcing the hands up towards the mouth. Just something to think about.

                                                1. re: lisavf

                                                  having your elbows on the table, not much of a problem.

                                                  Pushing your plate toward the center of the table, then leaning so hard on the table that my solid-wood, seats-8 table (read: big honking chunk of heavy) only has 2 legs on the floor -- BIG problem.

                                                  Giving me lip when I ask you to not lay on the table so it doesn't tip over? Damned near grounds for eviction.

                                                  (recent house-guest behavior)

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    Damn. That's a new one. Was he/she a goober in other ways too?

                                                  2. re: lisavf

                                                    Read my family post above- you may want to be able to cover your ears against the munching onslaught.

                                                2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                  unless the server is trying to clear and crumb your place. would you move already?

                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                    I think Emily Post would send me to remedial manners school if she saw me in action. I often forget #10, I don't even try to do #6 because I really like washing down my food with liquid, and I am guilty of reaching instead of waiting patiently, though only at home.

                                                    Is it a violation of the rule to cut one piece at a time if I completely crack open my crustaceans and make a pile of seafood to be consumed before starting? I do that with lobster, occasionally prawns/shrimp, and especially crab. I find the cracking/picking out meat process so messy and time-consuming that I like to get it done, then tidy up my hands, then eat my much-anticipated seafood (again, this is especially important for crab, which is my absolute favorite single food). By the time I get done cracking, many at the table are done eating, or close to it. I am sure I drive my family crazy.

                                                    1. re: jlhinwa

                                                      I am the same with the crab(blues, here on the east coast). DH grabs the claws, cracks than eats them. He hates to crack the bodies which to me have the best meat. I usually get a fair size pile of lump meat, eat it, then go back to crack some more. DH always looks to me to share after I have done all the labor. I always share, but after doing all the work, I get first pick. It generally takes me about 5-7 min per crab to thoroughly pick a crab.

                                                    2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                      haha..funny how our society makes these rules, but no one asked me (or you) what we think

                                                      1. re: crowmuncher

                                                        I know. I think most rules of etiquette are rooted more in class distinction than thoughtful co-existence. I think it used to give the rich and *cultured* things to be offended about.

                                                        1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                          That is true. I don't believe it serves any other purpose Ina.

                                                          1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                            I disagree. With everything, there is a baseline that people should adhere to no matter what the class is. The purpose is so that everyone is comfortable in the situation. We grew up not well-off (poor, perhaps, even?) and my parents still taught me the finer points of etiquette. It was expected to be exercised at the Sunday dinner table at my grandparents' home (they were farmers) and had nothing to do with class and 100% to do with proper dining. It served me well, as I found myself in more formal situations (again, not related to class as much as to situation) as a young adult with no tutelage available. I'm very glad that my humble roots also served to prepare me for the future when the unexpected arose.

                                                            1. re: velochic

                                                              I couldn't agree more with the idea that there needs to be a baseline of civility.

                                                              But to me, there is a difference between generally good manners that take into consideration the reasonable welfare and comfort of those around us and the codified sort of etiquette (a la Emily Post and Miss Manners) that, imo, often give the people who seem to care a lot about that kind of thing lots of petty reasons to be offended and feel superior.

                                                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                But what if the people who adhere to those rules of etiquette simply apply it to themselves and don't judge others? I've never seen others judge or feel superior... but if they apply it to themselves, then who does it hurt?

                                                                1. re: velochic

                                                                  I don't think we disagree as much as we might think, velochic. I couldn't agree with you more that it's great to observe certain more obscure or esoteric rules of etiquette if it pleases you, without judging others negatively for not observing the same.

                                                                  If you've never encountered others who judge or feel superior based on those issues, I'd consider you a very lucky person.

                                                                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                    Couldn't agree more. Unfortunately, there are those who seem to make it their life's mission to judge the behavior of others. And the ironic fact is, all those professional manners mavens say that the only thing worse than having bad manners is to point out the lack therof to others.

                                                                    1. re: sherriberry

                                                                      there's a fine line out there at the fringe of well-bred behavior, though.

                                                                      We've all had the misfortune of being at table with people who were apparently raised in a barn by animals and who seem to have only become acquainted with tables and chairs and silverware when they sat down at your table. I think we all agree that there's a baseline of etiquette that just marks you as a civilised human being. (chewing with your mouth closed, blowing your nose, etc., etc.)

                                                                      There are several people I've worked with who are terrific human beings, brilliant at what they do for a living, but have such a complete lack of table manners that they will likely never be promoted to a position of great responsibility, because customer and suppliers alike couldn't help to think that the person...and their company by default...are complete clods.

                                                                      I.e., -- the presence of table manners isn't hugely noticed -- but the lack thereof is DEFINITELY noted.

                                                      2. re: crowmuncher

                                                        Both elbows on the table....after you have eaten.....with fingers clasped is not considered bad manners. It's when you have one elbow on the table and shoveling food with the opposite hand that it is considered bad manners.

                                                      3. Lighting a cigar after an excellent meal is often frowned upon. Go figure.

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: beevod

                                                          I don't smoke cigars as often as I used to for a couple of years, but I find that people who don't smoke them make no distinction between cigars and cigarettes and so consider the smoking of one or the other in their company the same.

                                                          1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                            quite the contrary. I make a distinction, and think cigar smoke is worse. If someone lights up while I am still eating, I can't taste the rest of my meal. Fortunately, this isn't much of an issue where I live (California) anymore...

                                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                                              I can totally understand that. Smoking cigars is something I do only in the company of other cigar smokers.

                                                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                Never would have pegged you for a cigar smoker.

                                                                1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                  I'm not an aficionado by any stretch, but I do enjoy them from time to time. And I don't have the palate for macho cigars. I like them sweet and mellow. (But not dipped or flavored.)

                                                                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                    That's cool. I don't like the new trend in triple ligero cigars. Way to strong. My palate in tune with the the profile of the average Cuban cigar. Not strong like people think, just more flavorful. It's all about taste for me

                                                                    We use to have cigar dinners indoors and could light up at the table. That habit is gone like the dinosaurs. Now it's hard to find restaurants that will tolerate us outdoors

                                                                    I chuckled at some of your bad habits because they mirrored some of my own. You mean salad is not a finger food?

                                                                    1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                      I know, right? Salad IS finger food! :)

                                                                      I've generally had good luck with Macanudo and Romeo y Julieta, the specific names I can't remember.

                                                                      There are a handful of places with patios in OC (where I used to live) where I could enjoy cigars with my friends after a meal. But I completely understand why a restaurant wouldn't allow it, especially if there are other patrons dining in the near vicinity.

                                                          2. re: beevod

                                                            especially by those of us who are allergic to cigars (medically evaluated, etc., etc.)

                                                            It's an easy formula for me -- someone lights up, I stop breathing (my lungs close up immediately, leaving me coughing and gasping what little air I can manage to inhale, and leaving me feeling like my lungs have been scoured with a scrub brush for days).

                                                            So there are not ever cigars at my house, and I have to leave any situation in which there are lit cigars. Awkward, yes, but better than passing out in the middle of the room.

                                                            Oddly, I like the smell of cigars when they're not lit...and the cheaper the cigar, the more extreme my reaction (and *that* I learned to discern amazingly quickly)

                                                            I wish it were different, but it just isn't.

                                                          3. 1. I sometimes talk with food in my mouth. I just talk too much, and if I wait between bites, my food gets cold long before I'm ready to finish eating it lol.

                                                            2. Toothpicks, if I have something large and annoying stuck in my teeth. My discomfort far outweighs my shame in that case.

                                                            1. I eat fast. Really fast. My best friends nicknamed me "the Seven-Minute Burrito" after surreptitiously timing me one evening at a Mexican restaurant. Efforts to rein myself in have not really been successful.

                                                              1. I will only put my forearms on the table's edge.


                                                                1. Elbows on the table, yes, guilty. Fingers eating and licking, guilty. I actually didn't realize that some people see any use of fingers on food utterly unacceptable until I was about 28.

                                                                  I'll share two brain searing bad manners memories:
                                                                  Single most horrifying breach of manners witnessed in a public dining setting=watching tablemate blow his nose-a huge, snotty, honking blow-at the table...into his dinner napkin. Oh.My.Dog. I almost fainted and then vomited.
                                                                  Single most horrifying breach of manners witnessed in a home dining setting=watching a guest sort through a buffet platter of $120 worth of beef tenderloin I had just meticulously roasted and plated (presumably to find a well done piece) WITH HIS FINGERS, while serving fork was two inches away on same plate. That person never got invited over again. Obviously.

                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                  1. re: splatgirl

                                                                    Boogers into a cloth napkin. Ain't that something...

                                                                    1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                      used chewing gum on a bread plate, or put right onto the tablecloth.

                                                                      picking up soup bowl to "drink" rest of soup.

                                                                      drinking directly out of the wine bottle, seemingly forgetful of the filled glass right there.

                                                                      one man needing the heimlich, bec ause he was choking on his steak. his companions continued to eat, even while he was being relieved of his meaty burden and such right onto the table. he would have sat right back down too, until i insisted upon moving them to a clean table. and yes, he continued to finish his dinner.

                                                                    2. re: splatgirl

                                                                      the worst ik've seen is a guy lifting up his shirt to show his companion his newly pierced nipple; not at my table but in a restaurant,nonetheless, and in plain sight of all diners...yuk!

                                                                      1. re: splatgirl

                                                                        The worst I ever saw was someone in a restaurant taking out her dentures,setting them on the table while she drank her coffee then applying some goop and reinserting them at the table.

                                                                        As for me, do manners count if you are eating on the couch?

                                                                        1. re: calliope_nh

                                                                          yeah, that has nothing to do with class rules- that is just nasty; i think some common sense in while dining in a restaurant (where others can see you eat and they see you) is in order here; too bad common sense is not so common :)

                                                                          1. re: crowmuncher

                                                                            i've seen people floss their teeth at the table too.

                                                                      2. Sucking on bones. Doesn't matter if they are ribs, ribeye, neck, pig's feet. I can't help it and need to get every morsel out.

                                                                        At home, definitely. In public, not if I am with people outside of family. In public, with family, it depends on the establishment, but will range from surreptitious nibbling, picking, sucking to full on carnage.

                                                                        1. No problem with elbows on the table just not in the food

                                                                          1. I "Swallow" my food down with my drink (i.e. either water, milk, or wine). It drives my fiance nuts. He gets so upset. For some reason, he thinks this awful habit of mine is vulgar and disgusting. I think it's a French thing. He's french and has much better table manners than I do.

                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                            1. re: jarona

                                                                              Sorry Jarona, but that is disgusting....................

                                                                              1. re: jsl

                                                                                Really? Different strokes for different folks, I guess. I can easily think of many more disgusting eating habits than that one. At least if jarona is swallowing her food down with drink, we can be reasonably assured that she isn't chewing/chomping with her mouth open. :P

                                                                                1. re: jsl

                                                                                  Do you feel the same about cereal with milk?

                                                                                  1. re: jsl

                                                                                    Yeah..but I totally admit to that vulgar habit. On a good note, I only do that at home. I "watch" myself when dining out or at others' homes!

                                                                                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                        LOL--Thanks! I've many bad habits, but that one is most likely the worst. Oh wait. No it isn't. I'm the only female slob who drinks milk right outta the carton. Yup. Cannot help it!

                                                                                        1. re: jarona

                                                                                          But...do you wash down food at the same time you're drinking the milk?;-) I think you (general, you, not you specifically) can drink down food w/ drink discretely. It's no different than taking pills.

                                                                                2. So many rules and contradictions, each culture has its own traditions - I'm certain the elbows are OK in some cultures that have tables.

                                                                                  1. Elbows on the table drives me NUTS!!!! For years that was the one thing that my stepmother sniped at me about so every time I see my husband do it, it makes me want to snark at him for it, too, because it was so drummed into me.

                                                                                    1. I am a southern boy, I should get a pass on some of this.
                                                                                      1. pretty much anything that's deep fried is finger food.
                                                                                      2. when I am eating out,I work very hard to not lick my knife when I cut something scrumptious and there's a gob of goodness left on the blade.
                                                                                      3. the same as number two, except concerning a plate.
                                                                                      4. when the eating establishment provides either a dull knife or none at all, I've learned it is not always appropriate pull out my pocket knife to cut my steak.